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    Medieval dueling shields



    Before the development of legal process and trial by jury, it was common for nobles to settle disputes via ritualistic trial by combat, the assumption being that God would intercede on behalf of the fighter whose cause was most just. Judicial duels were fought with a wide range of weapons, but the the German dueling shield has to be the strangest.

    Here's a reconstruction of two types of combat with the dueling shield:

    YouTube - Duelling shield and longsword freeplay

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    That's pretty cool. Reminds me of a standup bass.

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    Wow. Very cool. The guy with the white mask seemed to get rocked by a head strike half way in. What century(s) would this have been from? 17th? 18th? 19th?

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    Much earlier. 12th or 13th....

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    DdlR's Avatar
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    I think that the guy in the white mask took a legit thrust to the head, but then "sold" it for the crowd. This demo. was part of a public educational display at a museum in Scotland, so the premise for demo. purposes was probably that they were fighting without masks, as seen in some of the old German combat treatises. IIRC the earliest technical illustrations for dueling shields are from Talhoffer's treatises of the 1400s.

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    So these judicial duels were always to the death or could one person tap out so to speak? Who oversaw these, legally speaking, if anyone? Did the legal dispute between the duelists have to be severe before a duel was allowed or could somebody throw down the gauntlet over any disagreement? Do you have any recommendations for a book or documentary on the subject?

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    DdlR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cuatro76 View Post
    So these judicial duels were always to the death or could one person tap out so to speak?
    It was permissable to surrender, but that would generally be taken as an admission of guilt.

    Who oversaw these, legally speaking, if anyone?
    Commoners had to present their case to a judge first, but IIRC members of the nobility could duel without having done that. When trials by combat were outlawed (on the sensible grounds that too many men were being found guilty simply because they lacked the strength or skill to fight well), the new law didn't apply to nobles. However, I believe that a high-enough ranking spectator could order a duel to end, even when nobles were fighting.

    Did the legal dispute between the duelists have to be severe before a duel was allowed or could somebody throw down the gauntlet over any disagreement?
    Again, depends on whether the disputants were nobles or commoners.

    Do you have any recommendations for a book or documentary on the subject?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_by_combat
    http://www.aemma.org/misc/duels.html
    YouTube - prepare for judicial duel
    and these two videos are probably decent representations of how judicial duels would have looked (if we ignore the modern safety equipment, etc.)
    YouTube - Harnischfechten sparring demonstration
    YouTube - Harnischfechten techniques from Ringeck

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    In the third video it looks like they are trying to portray two different styles fighting each other by the way they are combining their spears with their swords.

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    The spear and sword combination was another unusual dueling style detailed by Hans Talhoffer during the 15th century:


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    As I understand it, judicial dueling wasn't something you lightly entered into. If you were not expected to be a combatant, such as a female, you would hire a combatant. You would kneel beside the field with a man standing behind you, holding a garrote around your neck. Should your combatant lose, you would find yourself quickly strangled to death.

    Professional combatants for hire with winning records were highly sought-after.

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